Now that you’ve decided to use simulations in training interventions, let’s look at some of the components of successful simulations
As we’ve discussed, a simulation can take many forms, from real-life case studies to an engine failure on a passenger jet. But no matter what the topic, a simulation will be effective if it makes use of several important components. Let’s examine those components step-by-step so that you can build effective simulations for any group or desired outcome.
First, and possibly most obvious, a simulation must be realistic. Many times, we want to accept a case study or role-play during training as a simulation. But the key aspect we want to examine is the realism of the simulation, something that is sometimes lost in cases and role-plays. A simulation must make use of current external and internal forces that will act on any decision made in real life. In fact, each simulation for each group and for each time period probably needs to be different. Are the needs of your organization the same as they were six months or a year ago? They probably are not, so your simulations should match. Be as realistic as possible in order to create the real world in a simulated and controlled environment.
Next, a simulation should create the type of competition that will occur on the job. For example, every team member in a real situation wants to be the one who comes up with the final solution. Your simulation should be built with that in mind. Along with competition, the simulation should create new thought patterns at every possible point. The idea behind the simulation is to open eyes and minds to doing things differently.
Another important simulation component is the combination of learning and dialogue that is focused on the issues at hand. For example, if the simulation is financial in nature, participants should be able to learn the organization’s financial policies, discuss them, and apply them to the eventual outcome. Also related to the learning and dialogue is the overall mission and strategy of the organization. These pieces should never be very far from a simulation. In other words, the simulation must be presented and operated within the confines of the organization’s strategy and culture – and outcomes should be evaluated on their adherence to the strategy and mission.
Along those lines, remember to create outcome-driven simulations. The final result of the simulation should not be a checkmark for getting through it. Quite the opposite, the outcome of the simulation should be evaluated against the culture, mission, strategy, and goals of the organization. For example, if trainees come up with a perfectly useful solution to the simulation but bypass the organization’s overall culture to create it, then the simulation should be tagged as “back to the drawing board” or at least changed to create the same outcomes within the organization’s culture and values.
As the simulation is designed, remember that this is a different type of intervention from traditional training. One of the first differences is that a simulation should be driven by the participants and not by a moderator or instructor. Obviously the moderator must be in tune with timing and hours spent, but he or she should allow the participants as much leeway within those timeframes as possible to arrive at the simulation outcomes. Moderators should coach but not teach and should allow users to drive the situation.
In terms of participants or users, a simulation should be targeted and not blanketed. Just as your organization’s marketing department creates target markets and segments of that target market, your simulation should also do the same. For example, a simulation for the sales force should focus on creating revenue and customer relationships, whereas a simulation for HR executives should focus on creating strategies that help personnel but work within the confines of HR law. This may seem like an obvious component, but sometimes an effective simulation carries the temptation to use it across the board.
Finally, a simulation should not only create a team environment within the classroom but should also create a network for use outside of the classroom. Simulation activities should focus on teamwork and identifying strengths for each team member. In addition, participants should understand how they communicated with each other effectively during the simulation in order to do it effectively in the real world. As each person goes back to the front lines, he or she should go with the confidence that the network is out there waiting to offer assistance and opinions.
Next, we will examine the use of simulations in online learning situations.